Friday, 24 June 2016

Day 12 #blogjune Activity based workplaces

Yesterday I had the pleasure of listening to Garry McQuillan, CEO of Cardinia Shire, talk about their move towards activity based working (ABW).
The premise of ABW is that the office is designed in such a way that it supports all work activities, rather than having parameters around a particular employee's space (for eg, someone's *own* stapler, computer, phone etc).  An ABW space cultivates a variety of different working environments which all support different activities performed by the staff during the course of their work day.  There's a mix of desks, quiet rooms and meeting rooms.  Staff have laptops and can plug into a dock at any available workstation on any floor (if there are multiple floors) - no one has their own desk, unless their activity specifically requires this (and there would be a handful that fit this). 
Garry spoke of 4 platforms that are needed for this to succeed.  At the moment only 2 come to mind - one is the need for an excellent technology platform and the other is paper independence.  Quite ironically, I think paper independence is what most people would struggle with. However, removing the need to have everything in hard copy removes the need for myriads of filing cabinets which take up valuable real estate.
Obviously there would need to be some kind of framework supporting this.  I do remember some of the "ground rules" that were mentioned. One was that a staff member couldn't be away from the workspace for more than 20 minutes.  If that was going to be the case, they needed to remove their things.  Another was that there was no eating at the workstations.  Staff were encouraged to move away and go to the staff room to eat (lovely, big, airy and welcoming).  Everything is stored on the intranet. Everything. No shared drives.  You can read more at Cardinia's move to ABW here and here.
The thought of being in an environment like this would have baffled me once.  I would not have been able to imagine working without having hard copies to file away for future reference and of having a space where I couldn't access the things I needed to go about my daily activities.  However, over the past 2 years or so, my workplace provided me with a Lenovo ThinkPad Helix which gave me a lot of flexibility in terms of being able to work away from my office when I was required to be offsite. I could access Council infrastructure as soon as I logged in, which meant I could access anything I was working on. However, I couldn't access my paper files. This started me on the road to paper independence.  I started taking my ThinkPad to meetings and I could access previous minutes whilst there, as well as the agenda.  I would take notes on the actual agenda and this would spur me to action items I needed to do (as opposed to having a new document with notes from the meeting on it - why the first worked for me over the second I have no idea...). Over time, I was able to shred previously printed copies and move away from filing things.  I still had one drawer of files, but they were historical and so I kept them. I did, however, shred another 3 drawers of historical files (pre my own files), after making sure that they were on TRIM, our records management system. To further cement my paper independence, anything I created or actioned, I made sure was in TRIM, so we had a corporate record.  This all worked amazingly well and I really recommend it! I do have to say, however, that I still had a list of things I would scribble down and a diary for informal meetings, but I think the latter may well disappear in the new year....
What do you all think of ABW? Does any work in such an environment (as opposed to hot desks)?

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